Barbarians and language in Aristophanes
Matthews, Carrie Anne
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After the success of the Persian Wars and the development of Athenian nationalism the image of the barbarian changed. The word ba/rbaroj, a barbarian, was originally a label for a non-Greek speaker, but as a result of the Persian Wars this label took on negative qualities: cowardice, stupidity, and the inability to communicate. In the fifth century language was a defining characteristic, and the ability to speak Greek was exclusive; those who could speak Greek were participants in all facets of the Greek world, while those who could not were shut out. The same extends to comedy. In three plays Aristophanes represents the speech of barbarians, an activity unique to Greek literature. His predecessors do not represent barbarian speech either due to a different ideological perspective, or due to genre conventions. Aristophanes’ representation of barbarian language, then, offers an exclusive reflection of the new Athenian ideology.